Timpanogos Chief Black Hawk Born c. 1830; died September 26, 1870
The Utah Black Hawk War; Conflict, life and death...
Settler colonialism caused Utah's Black Hawk War spanning 24 years from when Mormons' arrived in the upper Great Basin in 1847 to the extermination of the Timpanogos Tribe of the Wasatch and forced removal to the Uintah Valley Reservation in 1871. Our timeline documents over a hundred and fifty bloody encounters, which resulted in an astonishing 90% decrease in the indigenous population. It's an example of American colonization—at its worst. "It has nothing that celebrates our noble ancestors. It's the gritty realities of history, conflict, life, and death." Historian Will Bagley.
"After they stole our land, they gave us a book that said Thou Shalt Not Steal." -Indigenous America
Following the assassination of LDS Church founder Joseph Smith and ever-increasing hostility in 1847, angry mobs forced Mormon polygamists to leave Illinois. Church leader Brigham Young led a massive migration of followers westward to the Rocky Mountains of the Great Basin in Utah. At the rate of some three thousand a month, Mormon colonizers sprawled out into the ancestral land of the Timpanogos Nation, upsetting the natural order of all living things for indigenous tribes. They killed deer, elk, and buffalo and depleted the fish population in the Timpanogos River(Provo River) and Timpanogos Lake(Utah Lake). They polluted water sources that Tribes solely depended upon for food, medicines, and life-sustaining necessities. With the rapid increase in Mormon population, agricultural development, and barbwire, the Timpanogos soon ran out of territory for sanctuary.
Mormon settlers arrived on the Wasatch Front of the Rockies during the Mexican-American War. The Shoshone was the largest tribe, occupying a vast area from Oregon to Nevada, Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming. Other Tribes surrounding the Great Basin were the Montana Blackfoot, Montana Cree, Colorado Utes, Colorado/Wyoming Arapaho, Southeastern Colorado Kiowa, Arizona Apache, Arizona Navajo, and the Nevada Washoe. Most significant to our story is the Timpanogos Nation, who were indigenous to the Wasatch that Spanish explorers Domingus and Escalante describe in their journals, 'who spoke the language of the Snake-Shonshoni' and comprised of several bands, i.e., the Paiute, Shivwits, Koosharem, and Goshute.
In 1848, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the Mexican-American War. The United States agreed to recognize 'Indian' land holdings and allow 'Indian' people to continue their customs and languages. Despite their treaty rights, LDS Church leaders declared the Indians "have no right to the land" and ordered the Timpanogos "exterminated." Brigham Young spent a million dollars, the equivalent of $35+ million today, in Church funds to get rid of them. And they, Timpanogos Nation, haven't forgotten the decades of Mormon depredations while living in fear of land-hungry colonists.
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Unpacking the truth found in the Black Hawk War means looking at the entire picture, not just one side. Historian and author Phillip B Gottfredson was born into the LDS church. Though no longer is a member, he understands Mormon culture. Regarding the Black Hawk War, Phillip began his quest for truth in 1989. Most mainstream accounts of the war describe confrontations between the "Timpanogos-Ute" and Mormon colonists. However, looking deeper into the history of the war revealed these accounts are biased and replete with contradictions, moral ambiguity, and half-truths while ignoring the indigenous peoples' side of the story. And that the Timpanogos and Ute are two distinctly different tribes in origin, language, and culture.
Phillip learned, "If we are ever going to hear the Native American's side of the story, they will need to tell it." He gained tremendous insights into indigenous history and culture when he lived with not just one Tribe in Utah but many others throughout North and South America. What he found on his incredible 20-year fact-finding journey brings a new and authentic perspective exposing the evils of colonization which led to stereotyping of Native American culture. "When I earned the trust and respect of indigenous people, naturally I wanted to help them," said Phillip. "I asked what can I do that would help you?" They answered, saying, "What you should do is help your people to understand what colonization did to us. Teach the things we have taught you and help build that bridge between our cultures with truth, love and respect." Chief Sitting Bull said, "its not necessasary for the Eagle to become a Crow." Meaning what matters is to know that we are all equal in the eyes of the Creator. See Phillip B Gottfredson Bio & Source Material for more information..
These Are The Facts:
After the Black Hawk War ended in 1872, in 1879, the Colorado Ute Tribe killed a corrupt U.S. Indian agent Nathan Meeker. Colonists found gold and silver on the reservation. So in 1881, punishment for the Meeker Massacre gave Congress the perfect excuse to force the Colorado Ute Tribe to leave their homeland and assign them to the Uintah Valley Reservation in Utah as "prisoners of war." Eighteen years previously, President Abraham Lincoln had created the Uintah Valley Reservation for the Timpanogos sent there in 1873. For more on these topics, please read The Timpanogos Ute Oxymoron page.
To paraphrase Sean P. Havey, Ph.D. author of Native Tongues, The concept of "Race" that took hold in the 1800s created physical and cultural divisions in humanity. It is essential to understand that it was crucial to early America. It provided the foundation for the colonization of Native Land and the enslavement of Native Americans and Africans.
Brigham and his followers' lust for riches, power, and supremacy may have won the war, but it cost them dearly. "Many of our ancestors gave up their humanity creating a legacy of moral ambiguity contradicting their most fundamental religious beliefs," said Phillip. "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" -Mark 8:36
Gottfredson points out how Mormon colonization historically ignores early indigenous peoples' spiritual lifeways distorting the humanity of a people whose culture is that of a deep sacred connection to each other and Mother Earth. The Mormon narrative is often overly Christianized. To justify the evils of colonization, writers dehumanize aboriginal people and elevate their religious beliefs. Scholars and authors never asked or cared what the Timpanogos had to say. Nor did they ask how they would analyze, interpret, or if they have a different version of the Black Hawk War. How it harmed indigenous people in mind, body, and spirit, leaving them to suffer thru endless decades of generational trauma. We need to remember the tragic past regardless of what happened—not distort it.
Hiding and distorting the truth is deceitful, mocking what it means to be honest and respectful of others' lives and history—leading to mistrust, resentment, hate, racism, and bigotry. It sets an awful example for our children, who are our future. See Truth in Education
Some say Mt. Timpanogos got it's name from an legendary Indian maiden. The Timpanogos Tribe acknowledges there is some truth to the romantic legend, but that is not how it got its name. In 1776, Spanish explorers Dominguez and Escalante named the mountain 'La Sierra Blanca de Los Timpanogos' (translation: The white mountain of the Timpanogos) in honor of the 'Timpanogoitz' Nation.
Indigenous to the Wasatch and the Great Basin, the Snake-Shoshone Timpanogos Tribe today are the direct living descendants of famous Chiefs Black Hawk, Wakara, Tabby, Arapeen, Sanpitch, Grospeen, Kanosh, and Ammon. Who were brothers and figured most prominently in all the histories of the Black Hawk War. Sanpitch was the father of Black Hawk.
Wakara was the principal Chief of the Timpanogos when Brigham and his followers arrived. Wakara's nephew Black Hawk who later had a pivotal role in the war, was barely in his teens and wouldn't become War Chief until 1865, when Tabby became the Nation's principal Chief. (See Timpanogos Tribe Biography for more detailed information.)
Colonization, Conflict & The Black Hawk War:
As Mormon colonizers settled among the Timpanogos, their primary objective was having control of their land; the conflict was unavoidable. Quoting from Chief Wakara's Statement to Indian Agent M. S. MARTENAS July 6, 1853. "They were friendly for a short time until they became strong in numbers, then their conduct and treatment towards the Indians changed—they were not only treated unkindly—they have been treated with much severity—they have been driven by this population from place to place—settlements have been made on all their hunting grounds in the valleys, and the graves of their fathers have been torn up by the whites."
Many fled to other regions for survival and protection. Epidemics of smallpox and cholera resulted in untold numbers of deaths. Census relied heavily on often inaccurate Indian agencies records at the time, so educated guesses estimate that the indigenous population was seventy-thousand or more in the Great Basin. Toward the war's conclusion, Brigham noted, "I do not suppose there is one in ten, perhaps not one in a hundred, now alive of those who were here when we came." That being the case, the death toll was staggering.
The Timpanogos recall the horrifying massacre at Battle Creek above Pleasant Grove in 1849 when Captain John Scott's all Mormon militia murdered two unarmed men and took young Black Hawk hostage.
They remember Colonel George D. Grant, money-hungry Dr. Blake, and "Wild Bill" Hickman. Who savagely decapitated 70 of their ancestors at Provo, Fort Utah, in 1850 and sold their heads for profit.
In the Bear River Massacre of 1863, over 400 Shoshoni were slaughtered, led by the remorseless Colonel Patrick Edward Connor. Brigham young supplied Connor with troops with equipment.
At the peak of the Black Hawk War in 1866, Bishop William Jackson Allred led the Circleville Massacre of the Koosharem Paiutes. Twenty-six men, women, and children's throats were slit and buried in a mass grave.
Perry Murdock, a council member of the Timpanogos Nation and a direct descendant of Chief Wakara, said, "Every day we are reminded of what our ancestors went through. Our families were torn apart. Children murdered, the old, the women, all those who were brutally murdered and made to suffer and die from violence, then disease, then starvation, our ancestors' graves torn up, the land destroyed, it was genocide plain and simple. Why? What did we do? We didn't do anything. We were living in peace. We were happy. Our children were happy. We loved each other. We cared for each other. And when the Mormons came, we tried to help them. Then they tried to take everything away from us. They wanted it all. They wanted to exterminate us, wipe us off the face of the earth. Why? For our land? For our oil? Now we have nothing."
Mary Murdock Meyer, direct descendant of Chief Arapeen, "As Chief Executive of the Timpanogos Nation, I speak for the people when I ask why? We fed you when you were hungry. We helped you when you did not understand our lands. Why then were we forgotten? Historians have never asked us about our history or our ancestors. People are wrong when they say we are Ute. We are Shoshoni. The Ute Tribe came from Colorado."
University of Utah Prof. Daniel McCool Ph.D., (Political Science). "We took from them almost all their land—the reservations are just a tiny remnant of traditional tribal homelands. We tried to take from them their hunting rights, their fishing rights, and the timber on their land. We tried to take from them their water rights. We tried to take from them their culture, their religion, their identity, and perhaps most importantly; we tried to take from them their freedom."
The Denver Rocky Mountain newspaper quoted Brigham Young saying, "You can get rid of more Indians with a sack of flour than a keg of powder." Clearly his intention was to "get rid" of the indigenous population. See Brigham Young Discourses
Firsthand accounts of the Black Hawk War underscore the 'extermination' of the Timpanogos by LDS authorities who proclaimed they had no right to the land of their ancestors they had lived upon since time immemorial. Examples are documented in Peter Gottfredson's book Indian Depredations in Utah that was published in 1919. For twenty years Peter was a bishop of the LDS church in Glenwood, Utah, until he retired. He was a friend of Chief Black Hawk and spent much of his time in their camps. He compiled any number of tell-all reports of early Mormon racism and cold-hearted brutality that happened over more than a decade. Please take a few minutes and read some excerpts from his book.
There has never been any reconciliation. The Timpanogos were catapulted into near extinction by Mormon colonization and Brigham Young's extermination order No.2 in 1850. Suppose you were Indian and lucky enough to survive the war. In that case, you are confined to a reservation and made to depend on government-run Indian agencies for scarce, and sometimes contaminated commodities to survive.
Your children are taken away and sent to boarding house schools with graveyards, all under the banner of "Kill the Indian, and save the man."
History ignored the Timpanogos Nation, leaving them out of Utah's historical narrative in favor of the Colorado Utes. The legacy of the Black Hawk War has caused tremendous obstacles. Scholars have said "they are the most documented Tribe in Utah," yet they have fought for Federal Recognition for decades. They have survived severe economic issues, sovereign and aboriginal rights violations, and boarding house schools. According to the July 10th, United States Tenth District Court ruling of 2016, the State of Utah has no jurisdiction over the Uinta Valley Reservation whatsoever. "They take whatever they want," said Tribal members living on the Reservation, "The war over treaty rights never ends."
Intoxicated by their inculturation, the LDS church believes they have a divine obligation to convert Utah's Native Americans to Mormonism, according to church doctrine, and in so doing, the so-called "loathsome" Indians would become a "white and delightsome people." They would be forgiven of the sins of their forefathers. (Book of Mormon 2 Nephi 5:21-23) According to church doctrine, the nature of the dark skin was a curse, and the cause was the Lord; the reason that the Lamanites (Indians) "had hardened their hearts against him, (God)" and the punishment was to make them "loathsome" unto God's people who had white skins.
To fully understand the inculturation of early Christian-led colonists who brought devastation to Native Americans of Utah and across the Americas, Phillip B Gottfredson describes in his book Black Hawk's Mission of Peace that the nature of the Christian mindset toward indigenous people begins with the Doctrine of Discovery. Christian Monarchs in the 1200s declared anyone who did not believe in the God of the Bible or that Jesus Christ was the true Messiah was deemed "heathens," "infidels," and "savages." Christians believed they were entitled to commit all manner of depredations upon them "by reason of their idolatry and sin." Followed by Andrew Jackson's systematic Indian Removal Act of 1830 and then Manifest Destiny 1839. Add that the United States entered into over 375 treaties with indigenous peoples, promising them peace, but has failed to honor any. Treaties are the supreme law of the land, and only recently have Tribes been able to enforce these treaties. Because they have become educated, they now have their own lawyers.
Timpanogos Chief Black Hawk is the hero in the story
Honesty, love, courage, truth, wisdom, humility, and respect were the virtues Black Hawk and his people honored. Being a solid leader came naturally. Black Hawk's charismatic charm befriended people from all walks of life, and hisleadership skills aroused people's loyalty with enthusiasm.
Colonists failed to see the age-old message of Indigenous America is 'connection, relationship, and unity.' All people are one. All are the direct living descendants of our Creator. Lakota Chief Joseph said, 'We have no qualms about color. It has no meaning. It doesn't mean anything." After decades of exhaustive research, there is no doubt that this was Chief Black Hawk's message when he made his last ride home to pass out of this world in peace. He was in severe pain, dying from a gunshot wound to his stomach at the Gravely Ford Battle. Chief Black Hawk made an epic hundred-and-eighty-mile journey by horseback from Cedar City in southern Utah to Payson. He spoke to Mormon settlers along the way. He advocated for peace and an end to the bloodshed. This heroic journey was Black Hawk's 'mission of peace,' but it gets left out of Utah's history.
Did the Mormons try to help the Timpanogos? We forget that many of our ancestors had deep and meaningful relationships with the Timpanogos, and we need to acknowledge that. And that is what makes it so hard for people to talk about the Black Hawk War. In 1866 when Chief Black Hawk had been wounded in a battle Gravely Ford, Canute Peterson of Ephraim paid a visit to the ailing leader Black Hawk—taking sugar, hams, bread, beads, molasses, tea, coffee, tobacco, flour, medicines, and clothing. Sadly, important stories such as this get buried in all the rhetoric.
In the end, however, members of the LDS Church robbed Black Hawk's grave at Spring Lake, Utah. His mortal remains were on public display in the window of a hardware store in Spanish Fork, Utah, and for amusement later was moved to Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City, and there remained on public display for decades.
"How do I know these things? I lived with them; I found the truth. These are traditional teachings of the Timpanogos I learned while living with them and Native Americans throughout North and South America. History is not just the study of the past; it's also the ethnology of indigenous people, present traditions, rituals, and legacies. But it's not about me, its about the human race, it's about the circle of life. I'm only the messenger," said Mr. Gottfredson.
Comments by Phillip B Gottfredson:
"We don't tell white people these stories to make them feel bad," say indigenous people, "we tell our story so you undersand the truth."
There is much we can learn from First Nation people if only we would listen. We need to help each other. We need to help each other learn and heal from our history's challenging times. We need to find a pathway to forgiveness and help to build that bridge between our cultures with compassion and mutual respect for humanity.
"Native American culture is a perfect example of total spirituality without religion," is a familiar saying among Native people. Understanding Native culture and time-honored traditions are essential when establishing meaningful relations with Native American peoples, especially for educators with Native students in their classrooms.
"I see a time of seven generations when all the colors of mankind will gather under the sacred tree of life, and the whole earth will become one circle again." -Chief Crazy Horse, Oglala Lakota.
This Months Featured Topics:
National Museum of the American Indian In my quest to understand the Native peoples of North America, attending this auspicious event I believed was a good place to start.
Native American Protocols When I was invited to live with a Shoshone family
one of the first things I was taught was Native American protocols.
See Source Material for more information
More Fallacious Stories; This one is about Chief Wakara's burial. NEWS
Here We Go Again - New monument in Mount Pleasant, Utah claiming Chief Sanpitch was Ute NEWS
Uintah Valley Reservation or Uinta & Ouray Reservation-Which is it? News
What does the term "Federally-Recognized Tribe" mean? News
Have You Read The Utah State Consitution? NEWS
On This Date:
July 24, 1847, Trouble for the Timpanogos Nation in Utah began July 24, 1847. Brigham seeing the valley said, “Its enough, this is the right place, drive on.”
July 6, 1853 At the request of Maj. [Jacob] Holeman Indian Agent for UT. Ter. I (M.S. Martenas) held a conversation with Indian Chief Walker respecting his feelings and wishes relative to the whites settling [sic] on this lands, and on the lands of the Indians generally. "...they
continued friendly for a short time, until they became
strong in numbers..."